Fact check: Posts mislead about VP Harris’ response to question about migrant influx

The claim: Vice President Kamala Harris laughed about migration struggles at the U.S.-Mexico border

Vice President Kamala Harris is facing criticism for what some say was an inappropriate response to the influx of migrants seeking asylum at the southern border. On March 22, Harris laughed when asked if she planned to visit the border.

Some social media users have shared clips and memes of the interaction.

“Kamala Harris Laughs Hysterically When Asked If She Is Going To Visit The Border,” reads one meme posted to Facebook on March 23 by The Politcal Insider.

These posts do not show the full interaction and context in which she laughed. Before reporters asked Harris about her plans to visit the border, she had been answering questions about her agenda for her trip in Florida.

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USA TODAY reached out to several accounts that posted about the incident for comment. 

FEMA regional administrator Gracie Szczech, center, takes Vice President Kamala Harris on a tour of the Jacksonville Community Vaccination Center in Florida, where members of the Navy prepare Pfizer vaccines March 22. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The full video shows Harris didn’t laugh about immigration

The full 8-minute video of the incident, filmed by Action News Jax (CBS47 & FOX30), shows the broader context in which Harris made the statement on the tarmac in Jacksonville, Florida, after disembarking Air Force Two. 

Harris told reporters she was in Jacksonville to address food insecurity and emphasize the importance of vaccinations. She was then asked if she had plans to visit the border.

“Not today,” she said and laughed. “But I have before and I’m sure I will again.”

She went on to stress the hard work ahead needed to address the border issue and “meet the moment.”

An influx of migrant children draws criticism

This came after debate about how the Biden administration should deal with overcrowding in youth migrant detention centers at the southern border. The administration has accepted an increased number of migrant children and struggled to hand over custody from Customs and Border Protection to the Department of Health and Human Services within the 72 hours required by law.

“Let’s get these kids out of CBP custody, get them into HHS custody,” Harris said. “We’ve got to treat this issue in a way that is reflective of our values as Americans and do it in a way and that is fair, that is humane.“

On March 22, the same day as Harris’ remarks in Jacksonville, the White House sent special assistants to the president Roberta Jacobson and Juan Gonzalez to Mexico to meet with officials about the inundation of migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Jacobson serves as coordinator for the southwest border and Gonzalez serves as senior director for the Western Hemisphere. 

The footage was released by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection as media has been denied access to border facilities.

USA TODAY

On March 24, President Joe Biden announced Harris will lead a federal effort to deter migrants from coming to the U.S. border seeking asylum.

“There’s no question that this is a challenging situation,” said Harris. “While we are clear that people should not come to the border now, we also understand that we will enforce the law, and that we also, because we can chew gum and walk at the same time, must address the root causes that cause people to make the trek.”

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Our rating: Missing context

Viral posts about a  a moment in which Vice President Kamala Harris laughed after being asked about issues at the U.S.-Mexico border are MISSING CONTEXT because without additional information they could be misleading. An original video of the interaction shows Harris answered the question after reporters asked her about her trip to Florida moments after she arrived in Jacksonville. She went on to discuss the importance of treating the children arriving at the southern border humanely.

Our fact-check sources:

  • Fox News, March 24, “Kamala Harris’ laughing answer to border question sparks backlash”
  • YouTube, Action News Jax (CBS47 & FOX30), March 22, “LIVE: Vice President Kamala Harris arrives in Jacksonville”
  • USA TODAY, March 24, “Vice President Kamala Harris to lead White House efforts to stem migration at the border”
  • USA TODAY, March 22, “White House says migrant situation ‘not a crisis’ as Biden’s border czar Roberta Jacobson heads to Mexico”

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